BOSTON (AP) — Workers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Massachusetts intentionally put bacon on a fish sandwich that a Muslim woman had ordered for one of her children, a civil rights organization said Wednesday.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a discrimination complaint on the woman’s behalf with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
“It is commonly known that Islam forbids Muslims from eating pork,” the complaint says. “McDonald’s employees willfully added bacon to the complainant’s food in an effort to offend, humiliate, and cause distress to complainant and her young children.”
The family was served the sandwich last June at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicopee, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) west of Boston.
The complaint is the first step in the process of seeking monetary damages, said Barbara Dougan, a CAIR lawyer. She also hopes it prompts McDonald’s to better train its workers to prevent a similar incident in the future.
“Religious discrimination at a place of public accommodation is not only illegal, but also morally reprehensible,” she said in a statement.
An email seeking comment was left with McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago. A message was also left with someone who answered the phone at Gomez Enterprises LLC, which operates the McDonald’s on Meadow Street in Chicopee.
The experience prompted one of the children to ask his mother if “they hate us.”
“McDonald’s made my children and me feel unwanted and worthless by intentionally stuffing a fish sandwich full of bacon for no other reason than to punish us for our faith and religious convictions,” the woman, Ghadir Alahmar, said in a statement. “This really hurt us. My children now wonder if they are welcome in their own country. They ask me, ‘Do they hate us?’ How is a mother supposed to answer that question?”
Alahmar, who wears a hajib and an abaya, entered the store on June 29 of last year with her twin 7-year-old sons, the complaint says. She ordered a plain fish sandwich, and had one of her children repeat the order to a worker in case they did not understand her accent.
They received their order, which included fries and cookies, and left the restaurant to walk to a nearby school playground where they planned to eat. One of her sons noticed the bacon.
The sandwich not only had bacon on it, but appeared to have extra bacon, the complaint says.
They did not eat the bacon, but one son ate the lower half of the bun and part of the fish filet, according to the complaint.
Alahmar’s husband returned to the store with the uneaten portion of the sandwich later that same evening and was refunded the purchase price.